Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk" standing out for me. With four Thelonious Monk classicsjuxtaposed with Smith originals, the music draws in the listener with its organic of sound, reverberation, and silence. There are no dull moments and one can just luxuriate in how this master musician, 76 years on December 18, plays with such power, intelligence, rhythm, and melody. I was able to attend one night of his "Create Festival" this year (the East Coast version) and can tell you he continues to grow as a musician, composer, and, above all, a human being.
This Quartet date - JP Schlegelmilch (piano), Noah Garabedian (bass), and Satoshi Takeishi (drums - has but six songs yet each shines with its own brightness and invention. Strains of funk, hard bop, classical music, blues, and more, enlivened by the delightful interplay, did bring to mind Wynton Marsalis's "Black Codes" group, especially the urgency, emotion, and the sheer joy of playing music with friends.
with The Westerlies (trumpeters Riley Mulkerhar and Zubin Hensler plus trombonists Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch) and the delightful drumming of Anwar Marshall. Inspired by the art and artistry of Stuart Davis (1892-1964, composer Douglas creates a aural gallery show that uses the rhythms of the paintings. Note the sly humor in several tracks, the delightful "basso profundo" of the trombones, the use of harmony and counterpoint, and how Marshall makes so much of these pieces dance. One continues to be impressed at how hard Dave Douglas works and how he takes guidance and direction from his influences and creates timeless music.
Trumpeter and composer Sam Boshnack puts to music the story of pioneering journalist Nelly Bly (1864-1922), successfully and not-so-subtly reminding the world of both the power of a single-minded woman but also how the press can tell important stories. Her Quintet, which features the sublime clarinet playing of Beth Fleenor, understands that the story comes first yet the music offers them music freedom. The "Nellie Bly Project" may only be 34 minutes long but packs quite a punch, especially in the two long, episodic pieces. Sam Boshnack, with both her Quintet and the B'shnorkestra, is becoming an important voice in the Pacific Northwest and, hopefully, soon around the world.
Amidst the tumult of sounds, what stands out is the friendship, the musicality, and the willingness to expand the spend as far as these six musicians can. Give in, let your mind open, and you'll hear many fascinating sounds and exhilarating interactions!
I am halfway through this year's list - next time out, it's large ensemble music and more.